Poetry is for Beautiful People?

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Here is a fascinating interview with poet Eduardo C. Corral, who touches on the beauty paradigm (which in this case also means thin paradigm) in the queer poetry community in New York City. It’s sad that fat seems to automatically equal not-beautiful, or that physical beauty is a requirement to fit into an arts community.

A quote from the end of the interview with Corral:

EC: Beauty is on my mind these days. The queer poetry community in New York City is full of beautiful people, which makes me an outsider. I’m not beautiful. I’m overweight. I’m unfashionable. I live in the wrong neighborhood. But let me add: I’m happy. I love myself. I love my life in New York City.

I’m disappointed in many of my queer peers. So many of them want to be part of the hipster crowd. So many of them value looks over talent. The cool kids form clubs, become gatekeepers. So many of my peers are clamoring to be let in. I don’t want in. I want to write poems, I want to read, I want to support others. I believe in community, but I’m hesitant to reach out to some of my peers because I’ve already been spurned by a few. One young man told me, “You don’t look like the rest of us.” But I’m not going to let narrow minds ruin my time in the city. I will continue to show up at readings, at poetry events. I’m here. I’m queer. I’m big. Get used to it! (bold mine)

The interview started a firestorm of sorts when  responded to inform Corral that beautiful poet Anne Sexton is awesome and it concerns him when people in the poetry community want to devalue his beauty and style…or something:

Though I’m impressed by Corral’s candor, and lament his experience of exclusion because of his appearance, I bristled when I read this. I found myself worrying that this sort of attitude, taken a bit further, could lead to the devaluation of something important to me—namely, fashion and beauty. Moreover, I’m afraid such an attitude sets up a false dichotomy: looks or talent, style or substance. I refuse to settle for one or the other. Silly as it might sound, I want to be beautiful and I want to write beautiful poems.

I’m not, of course, arguing poets need (or should) be good-looking, nor do I advocate exclusion within the gay poetry community on any basis. I’m certainly not claiming the hunger for celebrity I share with [Anne] Sexton is noble. But this is the truth of my life: I’ve wanted to be famous longer than I’ve wanted to be a poet. And I’m apprehensive about what happens when we privilege one experience of the world over any other. I may be young, I may be an aesthete—I may one day recall my great longing to be desired as frivolous—but I don’t believe that makes my experience any less worthy of artistic representation. (bold mine)

Fitzpatrick is calling out Corral for privileging the lives of non-beautiful, non-stylish poets over the lives of beautiful, stylish poets. In so doing he cleanly misses the point of Corral’s critique: that men like Fitzpatrick are already privileged and that Corral thinks that’s a problem. Fitzpatrick’s is yet another (albeit beautifully written) example of the privileged biting back when someone has the temerity to point out their vaunted social status.

Fitzpatrick wants to be his version of beautiful and stylish and a poet — fine. But acknowledging a poetry community privileges one version of beauty and style over another isn’t about taking away one’s ability to be whomever he wants, but an attempt to broaden the space for other interpretations of what it means to look like a poet. Fighting against broadening a space is fighting for the status quo, the existing definition that privileges one set of people over another.

Invisiphilia, Part Six – Holidays

This is the sixth installment of my poem in several parts, “Invisiphilia: An Epic.” For an introduction to the piece, please read Part One.

<< Part Five

Invisiphilia: An Epic

◊ ◊ ◊

PART 6: HOLIDAYS

Christmas came, a riot of our
happy memories.
Brother got a camera, and I
got some new CDs.
Daddy got a diet, and I
got a diet too—

“Do it just like this and they will
want to look like you!
Talent gets you far but it can’t
win you true success;
Riches, friends, and fam’lies grow
the smaller your dress gets.
Don’t you want to see the sun stream
right between your thighs?”

…I didn’t, in particular.
But—

If I’m skinny, maybe he will
hear me when I sing;
If I’m skinny, maybe he will
want the love I bring;
If I’m skinny, maybe he won’t
leave before I’m grown—

I got skinny. Daddy moved down
south to his new home.

◊ ◊ ◊

<< Part Five

Invisiphilia, Part Five – Self

This is the fifth installment of my poem in several parts, “Invisiphilia: An Epic.” For an introduction to the piece, please read Part One.

Part Six >>

<< Part Four

Invisiphilia: An Epic

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PART 5: SELF

Not until you’re thin as Amber,

lithe as Julia;

not until you’re Michelle-skinny,

graceful as Anna.

Not until that perfect ten,

that Nicole (she’s so hot).

Not until you’ve lost that ten, not

til you’re weightless (not).

◊ ◊ ◊

Part Six >>

<< Part Four

Invisiphilia: Part Three – School

This is the third installment of my poem in several parts, “Invisiphilia: An Epic.” For an introduction to the piece, please read Part One.

<<Part Two

Part Four >>

Invisiphilia: An Epic

◊ ◊ ◊

PART THREE: SCHOOL

She is the fastest reader, and

her math is years ahead—

she sings, and plays, and draws, and writes;

lies dreaming on her bed.

But no one sees the little girl

as reader, writer, voice;

instead, the product of a vice,

and victim of a choice.

◊ ◊ ◊

<< Part Two

Part Four

Invisiphilia: Part Two – Infancy

This is the second installment of my poem in several parts, “Invisiphilia: An Epic.” For an introduction to the piece, please read Part One.

<< Part One

Part Three >>

Invisiphilia: An Epic

◊ ◊ ◊

PART TWO: INFANCY

They never told the neighbors that

they cut your milk in half;

drawn colored dots up on the wall—

your hunger on a graph.

And when you screamed your emptiness

they shrugged and found the scale—

nope, still too heavy; so they placed

you in your crib to wail.

◊ ◊ ◊

<< Part One

Part Three >>

Invisiphilia: Introduction, and Part One

Hi folks. Many of you know I’m a fiction writer and poet, but I haven’t posted much of either on this blog. However, I’ve been picking away at poem in several parts called “Invisiphilia: An Epic.” After sitting on the first few parts for a long time, I decided there’s no better way to get this moving than post one or two parts a week. They’re reasonably short, and some are shorter than others.

So here we go.

Part Two >>

Invisiphilia: An Epic

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PART ONE: CONCEPTION

A happy day, three weeks after

the night you were conceived.

But Doctor wasn’t too impressed

with what your Mom achieved.

“You shouldn’t gain an ounce,” he said.

“Perhaps, should lose a few!”

All told in order to prevent

the birth of a fat you.

◊ ◊ ◊

Part Two >>